" I feel I am very sane about how crazy I am." -Carrie Fisher
"Own your Crazy." -Kim

Thursday, July 22, 2010

You Can Go To Rehab When Cancer is Over...

Naomi is a recovering alcoholic. I think now she has actually been sober longer than she ever drank. It has been so long I actually forget about it most of the time. The reason I don’t completely forget about it is because she is very worried she will pass the disease onto me. She has spent years telling me about the evils of alcohol and its place in our family. At strange times she will look at me over her sunglasses and let me know that alcoholism is hereditary, or she will interject with some random statistic on addiction.

This all goes out the window when she wants me to do something with her. Then she will hold liquor in front of me like a dog with a bone. “Let’s run to Macy’s.” She will say at six at night when I am winding down my day and exhausted. “I’ll tell you what, you have a “suds” (this what she calls beer) and then I will pick you up and drive us there.” Or sometimes when she knows I am at the end of my patience with her (and it is really her fault), she will announce, “Why don’t you sit down with a suds and I will wash your dishes."

She doesn’t need to worry. I have no plans on becoming an alcoholic, as I have no plans to give up something I really enjoy, and I really enjoy drinking. Naomi also doesn’t need to worry, because while I do enjoy a cocktail, it turns out you can’t drink those and then drive children around. So, with four children and a gazillion activities between them, I have no worries of becoming an alcoholic because I have very little time to drink. Thank God I had four children and married a man who doesn’t really drink, or quite honestly, the memoir would be more about recovery than “fun mom stories”.

The only time I got close to worrying was when I had cancer. When I was first diagnosed there were a lot of doctor’s appointments. At every new appointment there were the requisite hours of forms to fill out on me and ultimately my family history as well. They all asked the same questions…”Do you have a history of breast cancer in your family?” I didn’t. “How many pregnancies have you had?” Too many. “How many alcoholic drinks do you have during a week on average?” And here is where it got tricky. At the beginning I could answer truthfully…one to two drinks a week. However, as the stress and number of doctor’s appointments increased (as well as the fact that I didn’t have to go to work in the morning) and Naomi practically throwing “suds” down my throat to reduce my stress…I realized I was lying when I checked that box because one to two drinks a week was rapidly turning into one to two drinks a day.

I needn’t have worried for long, because after all the appointments and surgeries came chemo, and chemo was a quick cure for impending alcoholism. Cancer was depressing for a few reasons, one reason being that when chemo started NOTHING tasted good, including a glass of wine or a cold beer. Besides hair loss I am going to have to admit the saddest nights during chemo were when cocktail hour would roll around and a drink didn’t even sound good. In fact, I spent a lot of time trying to find something that tasted good (causing me to be one of those rare people that gains weight during chemo) and what I came up with was sour patch kids. So, chemo left me a huge mess when it was over…no hair, weight gain, bad skin, and because of the sour patch kids…a gum and teeth situation that my dentist and I are just now getting over three years later.

This being said, that while I do enjoy a drink here and there, I am not into medicine or pills of any kind. I have a high tolerance for pain, and I do not enjoy even baby aspirin. I am a “gut it out” kind of gal. This all changed with cancer, because it turns out when you have cancer there is a lot of medicine to take, and at certain points in the cancer process, a lot of that medicine is…pain medication.

I did not want to take any of it, but Naomi (who quite possibly does still enjoy a little high now and then) would ask at every appointment. The doctor would be talking and she would lean in, very serious, and say, “I just have one question…can we she have a prescription for Vicodin?” It turns out that when you have cancer, doctors don’t want to tell you no or have conflict in any way really, so they were grabbing the prescription pad faster then my mother could finish the sentence.

So, I had a lot of spare Vicodin floating around the house (well, at least whatever managed to stay after Naomi had grabbed a couple of pills whispering, “Just to help me get a good night’s sleep while my daughter has cancer.”). It turns out there were moments I needed it too. There were a couple of unexpected pain situations and sometimes just the need to fall asleep instead of being awake all night and thinking about what will happen to your kids if you die.

I was grateful for Naomi and her crazy, obsessive need to get me pain medication. One night I was thinking about taking the Vicodin when I couldn’t sleep, but I was feeling guilty about it and worried that all that Naomi had told me previously COULD be true, and I could become an addict because it DID run in my family…when Naomi called and said, “Take the damn Vicodin Kim. We all need to get through this. You can go to rehab when cancer is over.”

And there it was words to live by. Luckily, cancer is over, I did not have to go to rehab and I have returned to checking the box for social drinking. However, when it doubt, it is good to know you can go to rehab when cancer is over!

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